Taking / Flight

While in Seville my main dilemma and focus was money. No one could quite understand how stressed I was about it. It was inevitable, to continue traveling on such little money. I'd already depleted my savings, my going home money etc. My main problem was trying to plan this mid-trip dash back home. Not only was that costing me a lot more because of the timing but it was really stressful to blindly make the arrangements . In Malaga, I'd finally made the decision of when to go home. Now it was about how to get home. So in Seville, I was texting and emailing just to get me from point a to point b. My mother was working with my former landlady now travel agent. I was trying to figure out my train transfer in Milan and navigating Paris after hours. I pretty much just wanted to get on US soil and figured I'd sort out the rest once there. I felt that once I was in New York I had multiple choices on how to get back to North Carolina. I even thought about thumbing it. That is just how broke I was. I was trying to arrange all of the above and just manage the here and now. I was so involved in that planning I'd actually forgotten about the flight from Spain to Italy. After all this was the most tedious part of our trip and we hadn't even discussed it.

Hotel Reviews Part I : Live AND Die By Them

Before my trip abroad I'd never written a hotel review. Lets just say I never had an experience of my own to review. I'd always stayed with a friend, family or briefly visit a hotel meeting space for business. However, I'm not new to the process of reviewing because I personally love customer surveys. Companies and businesses are driven by survey feedback. They provide a service or product and hope that it compels you to at least consider doing a survey about your experience. Sometimes they offer a sweepstakes entry or lure you in for a freebie upon completion. Yet once you're in these surveys the trick is they become wormholes of other questions that sort of make you want to give up midway. Hotel reviews are completely opposite. In a sense the review is more complicated. No one at your hotel is going to ask you or suggest you review your stay. There is also no incentive in even making a review. Hoteliers really don't want to hear much about your experience.They may leave a survey card in your room but it is normally in the most obscure location. Hotels don't make it easy to speak with management - even if you want to give a compliment! Then most major hotels are franchises apart of big hotelier and resort groups - so whatever comments you may have, good or bad, may never make it to someone who cares. In essence, hotels like it like this. A hotel has specific standards and chooses to simply adhere to them. If the standards are met and they are consistent within a brand or throughout different locales they figure that is more than enough. But does the buck really stop there? After all how do we choose a hotel these days - the feedback of others!


Nothing to Eat, Nothing to Wear and Nothing to Say


By all means, go to Spain, Andulusia, Costa Del Sol, Seville - all these strange places. Just know that I actively made a choice to be repressed in this particular place. Also know that Seville just happened to be the place that gave us the worst hotel experience. I never actively chose to be the bad guy elsewhere. I've also been to some very shitty hotels before and after this trip. 

Seville never did it for me even when I decided to feel it out for myself without her. I also drank heavily while I was there. I had a few bottles of rum I'd smuggled from Malaga. I was buying loose cans of shandy from a nearby Dia. I had found wine at a corner store for $2.50. She'd make me tea and I'd put rum in that. You know those movies where the character is held up somewhere and theres the montage of them going stir-crazy, pacing, looking out the window and drinking in ragged clothes with sweat beading on their skin - that was me in Seville. I was held up in our room just writing, reading, drinking and sweating.

So don't let me decide for you.


Fast Forward To Now: A Brave New World - Written March 20th 2014

Tonight well this morning rather, I come to you from the comforts of my king sized mattress foam bed. I love how it bellows and coos to my bottom and I just sink down in it with my lappy. I have "American Hustle" to my right and a large BPA free cup of Kool-Aid to my left. The other side of this grossly unused bed is covered in loaned cookbooks and Glamour with my favorite girl on the cover. I'm in for the night. This is bliss. Outside not so far west another storm is brewing. So for now the heat is lowered to 82 as the outside is in the low 40s. Yes, this is the calm before ice storm #3. We have had two of these phenomenons back to back. Yes, since I last went off the grid yet another one of these things took away my access. However, this time I was prepared. I was lucky to have received a nice shipment of magazine subscriptions (it's renewal time) and we shopped well ahead of the mayhem. Tonight we spent about two hours just gearing ourselves up for whatever else may come. At the last store, at the first aisle - a troop of women flocked all talking about storm no. 3. The cashier and I just looked at each other with faces of doom. One woman just had her power restored. Another just finished throwing out an refrigerator of food. I just endured two nights with no internet. 

We have become so attached to our devices and things. Sometimes even a few hours is torture. We become ravenous beasts without our "access" and attempt to funnel our boredom into horrendous behavior. We drink excessively, we binge eat, we hibernate and then we explode. We are so prone to acting out without our tv episode or daily vlog people are working to allow us all of this on a plane … in the sky? Sadly, we've adapted. Today I was forced to go into a public library. I love the library, I really do. I just felt like I had it altogether now. I didn't need these outside resources. Libraries are places for those who have to escape or have no options - safe havens for children, students, the homeless, the lonely, the ill-equipped, the less fortunate. I'm not going to lie, I thoroughly enjoyed the library. They had a computer lab. They had wi-fi. I spent the majority of my time there using my iPhone. Then it occurred to me that there were three entire floors of books. So I put my "things" away and wondered around. Inside my mind I said "one day this will all be gone". I thought about the naysayers and the publishers. I thought about the tech guys and the rationalists. There was no way we could force people to carry around all these books. In my eyes, there is no way you could force me to stop reading real books. I will be that one troublemaker. 

Not even a year ago I was working in a fast paced, high tech job. I was being told to adapt to every single new wave out there. I remember being on-boarded with a triple ring binder and now I was holding an iPad. Yes, the world was right there … at my fingertips. Yet, I would still run in a corner and find that link and copy the white pages by the ton. Sometimes I'd print a fifty page document because some men like to watch the world burn. My only defense when caught was that something tangible was the only way I could connect. The irony was without physical pages, something my eyes could follow and something my fingers could turn - I never quite got it. I'd go to meetings and pretend to follow along to these dismal attempts to get us to "interact" and it just didn't … compute. Now here I am and I feel more disconnected than ever because that box that connects to the thing that gets the signal that powers my modem that connects to the router that signals my phone so I can get on Facebook isn't working! Now I'm all over the got damned place. 

I even wrote this cryptic status about communication or a lack there of on my Facebook. I don't know when is the right time to get back to the people I once knew in person. I don't know how to get through to them, if I am infringing or is there a better way. These are dynamic people of all ages, professions, education. Their lives are so much bigger than mines. I'm not sure if texting is informal, if a random phone call is a nuisance or a card is downright cheesy. I really don't know what to do. However, they spring to me on social media and I'm tripping over myself to stay in the conversation a.k.a. feed. I am doing so much my responses are doubling. Is it the speed of my typing? Is it the elation to have wi-fi after two days without? Is it the information highway inundated with a bunch of disconnected people trying to connect? Is it this lost city full of down trees, power lines and frozen modems? Surely, I can't call you because no one talks on the phone anymore. If I text you its like smoking in your face because I'm potentially killing you. If I write you a letter I'm in prison or I'm a creep. But hey there is always Facebook - right!?

My mother became catatonic. She lays horizontally about 18 hours of the day watching "The Game Show Network". She watches so intensively she noticed the same families wearing the same clothes over and over on the "Family Feud". She is so glued to that box she caught the actual prestige. She now knows they tape like seven episodes in one day. When the cable went out along with the internet she grieved. The generational gap was apparent and you could cut the tension in the house with a knife. Do you want a crossword puzzle? Wanna get a Redbox movie? Should we break out the Uno cards? No, No and a consistent no. My mother wanted to keep watching that mundane crap of buzzers and steals and most popular answers. She had me continually try to make the cable work. It was 20 degrees outside with ice pellets barreling in from the east pummeling that cable box killing the signal and she asked me to try the remote from the living room which is cloned to that specific box and TV set. She needed her fix. She need ed her "feelies". In my opinion, she could be just as fine watching white noise as long as something was on that screen. Sadly anything would do.

Tonight I have over 1300 channels. I also have the wide world web. I just Googled that to make sure it was in the right order. Sadly, I used Wikipedia to fact check. I had to do it because I totally take for granted what this is exactly. I could be buying something or making something go viral. Instead I'm blogging on an archaic platform and about to watch a movie that tons of people saw in a theater with sounds that boomed under their arses for $18. There are people texting, messaging me and I'm not paying it any attention. I am alone and hoping to... connect. Somewhere there is someone not too far removed from my social circle that is wishing they had someone to talk to. My mother watched game shows for over three hours before I asked could I cut it off. She began to pat the bed and grimace because she couldn't stand to see me do it. Finally the remote appeared just below her chin and she beamed the infared just past my face to kill the thrill. What is this world we are living in? What brave new world is this?

When is this storm coming?………..


No 8 Do - She Has Not Abandoned Me

Seville grew on me. Upon arrival I was not impressed. Then each day she showed me something new. She showed me something about myself. When I left I was not myself. That one place changed me for the worse. Seville should have been the one place I really wanted to go to. It should have been the place I invested the most time. I pretty much ruined it for myself and didn't realize it until I was leaving. I needed to be beside myself for a while. I needed to do it somewhere that wouldn't punish me for doing so. Seville isn't a regret. Seville never happened. I can still go. If she'll have me…

Travelin' Hygiene - The Brink Of ...

In my series of all things TMI while abroad I move onto things out of ones control. Yes, the "habits" of being human. We both had our own unique ones that we had to deal with. Deal as in co-habitate and try to ignore. Just as my travel companion had to deal with my love affair for bathing tools and hair products - I had to deal with her reliance on tissue of any kind to combat her nose. However, her nose problem interfered with my grossly TMI but gloriously miraculous problem. Now look I've already discussed looking for long term underwear and us sharing tampons. So if you dare go on don't say I didn't warn you…


Off to Sevilla!

I hated leaving Malaga. 

Yes, I said it. Leaving was excruciating. We'd just spent nine days in paradise and we're off to the unknown. We'd barely discussed what was next in-between daily arguments, awe filled site seeing and monkey filled nights. Now we were packing again - in the truest form. We'd actually hung clothes, did laundry, put things away so it was like leaving the states packing wise. The only thing good about leaving was having the most perfect donut in Spain. There were so many perfect donuts in the case but I was told in the best English not to take photos. So I instagrammed my donut and Malaga actually liked it. What a city!

Now we we're off to the land of flamenco!?

Seriously, I didn't look into Seville. I was never interested in traveling to Seville. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't care what was even there. It was just a stepping stone between now and Italy. 

So I stepped all over Seville. 

Adios Malaga - Baila Sevilla!

City Highlight: Modern Malaga

As much as I feel like I've repped Malaga, I haven't even broken the surface with places of interest. Malaga is a playground full of things to see and do. Malaga is the Disneyland of Spain with a touch of the Smithsonian. The real issue is as much magic as there is for everyone it may be impossible to see it all. Most of the factoids about this city I found out well after I left. So just like those touristy epicenters mentioned above you cannot see it in one day or visit - you simply have to revisit over and over again. I'll always have my beloved locales that I must see. However, I now know of so many places I missed and long to go.


An American Abroad: Attitudes & Arguments

The average American has very high expectations for most things in life. We handle problems and disputes very differently from other cultures. We simply expect the best in everything and don't really know how to handle disappointment. We seriously use our egos to get whatever it is we want. There are those with aggressive personalities wherein our reputation proceeds us. There are those that flirt and prey upon others. There are generally nice people who simply have big wishes and desires. The risk in all of the above is that sometimes none of that works. Most if not all of the above behaviors don't fly in Europe. Disappointment in travel is inevitable and it should be the one thing to expect and prepare for. The true test is how you handle the snafus when they come. You actually do have options and choices.

I Did It For Her - Update February 27th 2014

Have you noticed my new writing style? I call it erratic and without flow. I've been without the internet. So when I had access I've been making half-ass posts. If and when I did post my grammar sucked, I forgot to conclude and enter vital tags. It's not like I've been completely off the grid either. I've had internet, borrowed it at times, paid for a rather shitty hotspot and then resorted to sitting around at places with even shittier wi-fi. Yesterday we were gifted with the joys of stable and fast internet service. So I've changed back to my former writing style and managed to fix this mess. I apologize. I wasn't hacked. I'm not suffering from a degenerative brain disease. Well it isn't me. It's more or less everything around me. 

My last update revealed that I had taken a job, my mother was ill and I was having technical issues. A few weeks after that post I had no choice but to quit my job and work full time taking care of my mother. The technical issues still persist but I've found a method to the madness. It's my mother that I am worried about. One would assume we are fighting the great battle called cancer. Actually, no it isn't the cancer. We are brawling with family. Yes, the f word. People take sides when their loved ones start to fade away. Some people try to align but they all have their own ulterior motives. Most are petty, selfish human motives. We wish to possess a loved one beyond their time or ability. We begin to think of only our loss or our setback. Others show all this concern about wishes trying to tie it into religion and tradition. The reality is whatever you think someone wants isn't what they want at all. Then there is money. 

No one has been looking out for my mother other than me. So it isn't about her value to our family. No one questions what she ultimately wants. It still fascinates me when she tells people she's Catholic. I've never seen her attend a single Mass. However, in my role as daughter and caregiver I'm not driven by motives and I don't judge her. I am not keeping her from a destiny. I'm not worried about the afterlife. I could care less about the money. I just want my mother to be okay. I don't wish for a cure. I don't want her to be "comfortable". These are strange wishes that don't come true. You can't comfort someone who is suffering. You can't wait for miracles to happen. The only thing you can provide is some sense of normalcy and dignity. You can make sure the bed stays made. You can break out the crock pot and cook a nice meal. You can provide a mani/pedi. You can talk about that one time and back when. These are all things I didn't or couldn't do when my mother was taken for granted. I can't just wish, hope and dream those niceties away. I had to do the above 100%. I also had to remove her from a rather toxic environment. 

This removal was not by choice. Her family basically forced us out. They strongly believed she wouldn't make it and never expressed otherwise. My mother has an 80% chance to live. In fact, her doctors say the cancer is gone. She's done with treatment. She is just recovering from it. She wasn't recovering in a house full of vultures. They were also working really hard top prevent me from allowing her to recover. We had to sever all ties. I really thought in doing so my mom would turn around. She hasn't gotten any better. She ultimately feels defeated and heartbroken. There is nothing anyone can do to restore her morale. Theres no pill for that. Theres no gesture for that. I just have to remember that she maintained a life before I came. No matter how good, bad or different she had one and so did I. So each day we reveal a bit about ourselves to each other. I learn something new about her former self. I express whatever it is I'm harboring. We have both been way too busy to ask and never thought we'd have to tell. 

Sometimes she tells me something good. Sometimes there are things I wanted to hear. Then there are a lot of bad revelations. She finally told me about a house she owned. Sadly, the home had been in default since her diagnoses and she never thought to tell me. Someone very close to her and I and the family took advantage of it. They stole most everything out of it, tossed whatever was remaining and then proceeded to vandalize the house by flooding it. I had to explain this to my mother and she put it on my shoulders. I was responsible for everything involving her property and it all happened overnight. I had to contact the police. I had to start the insurance claim. I had to work with contractors. My mother just isn't capable of handling her affairs anymore. So the past month all I've done is take care of her and work on repairing her house. Eventually we would move-in making this unknown investment our safe haven.

I totally took my 70 year old stage 4 cancer having mother, my two dogs and all I could put in my hatchback and went to the nearest and cheapest hotel. This caused a lot of problems. Logistically you really can't care for someone in her state in a hotel. There is a lot of preparation to do it and I didn't really have that. I also lost that sense of normalcy I'd promised her. I also forgot to bring more than a few pairs of underwear. So things we're quite off for about a week and a half. Then there was promise. Insurance was able to start on the house. We we're having a horrid hotel experience and it was costing us everything. It was purely coincidental that insurance offered to take over the billing. We promptly moved to a better hotel and waited for them to start the process. Then came a big snow trapping everyone. The contractors couldn't finish their work. The adjuster wasn't in the office. We we're stuck in our room with the dogs. Yes, we were in a hotel room for nearly three weeks. Lets just say the internet was the least of my problems. 

Today we are in the house. A house we both sacrificed a lot to recover. I'm no homeowner. I really didn't know what to do when she sprung this on me. I'm still quite baffled that my mother would buy a home and choose not to live in it. She wasn't even making money off it; she was supplementing the tenants rent to pay the mortgage. So before all of this, before the cancer and before I came - my mother was under a lot of stress. As much as I do not want to be the person controlling things - I have no choice. So I'm now a legal doppleganger of my mother. I pay her mortgage. I put contact paper in the linen closet. I hung curtains in the living room. I hacked Ikea's Summer Vegetable soup in the crock pot. I dispense her meds. I show her funny videos of cats. And now we have internet and like 1300 cable channels! She calls it "our" home. This is the first time we together outfitted one. There is no celebration in it because we're here for all the wrong reasons. However, something feels right about moving on. I wish her no more stress and I'm certain she knows where my loyalties lie. I blog. She watches HGTV. We have a PET scan in April. I wish to be back to life as I once knew it in May but it all depends on that scan. For now we have March - an entire month of normalcy. Again, I did it for her. I do it all for her.